Grégoire de Fournas: the French parliamentary session interrupted by the cry of the legislator “Return to Africa”

A right-wing French lawmaker caused an uproar by shouting “Go back to Africa” ​​during comments by a black lawmaker during a parliamentary session broadcast to the public on Thursday.

Grégoire de Fournas, deputy of the National Rally (RN) party, interrupted Carlos Martens Bilongo, a representative of the far-left party La France insoumise (LFI) during a session of the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.

Bilongo called on the French government to cooperate with EU countries – notably Italy and its far-right new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni – to help several hundred African migrants rescued from the Mediterranean Sea.

De Fournas interrupted him, shouting “go back to Africa”.

Chaos immediately sets in in the hemicycle, leading Yaël Braun-Pivet, President of the National Assembly, to temporarily suspend the session.

Bilongo and his party described the shout as a racist personal attack, although de Fournas’ party argued that the interjection was actually aimed at the migrants in question.

“Today, some people put my skin color back in the center of a debate. I was born in France and I am a French legislator and I did not think that today I will be insulted [like this] in the National Assembly,” Bilongo told reporters after the incident.

Mathilde Panot, leader of the far-left group La France insoumise in the National Assembly, demanded that de Fournas face the harshest penalty for a French lawmaker: expulsion. “Racists like him have no place in our parliament,” Panot tweeted.

De Fournas said he was referring to migrants, tweeting that rebellious France had “hijacked” his remarks in “shameful manipulation”.

“My response was about the boat and the migrants, obviously not my colleague,” he tweeted.

According to French phonetic rules, there is little audible difference between the phrases, “He should return to Africa” ​​and “They should return to Africa”, as de Fournas expressed them.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right RN party group in the French lower house, voiced her support for de Fournas in a tweet.

“Grégoire de Fournas obviously talked about the migrants transported by boats by the NGOs that our colleague mentioned in his question to the government. The controversy created by our political adversaries is crude and will not deceive the French,” she wrote.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told reporters after the session that “racism has no place in our democracy”.

Parliament will meet on Friday to decide on a sanction for de Fournas. The expulsion, the harshest sentence given to a parliament lawmaker, has been handed down only once during the French Fifth Republic, to a communist lawmaker Maxime Gremetz for disrupting a parliamentary session in 2011, according to the CNN BFMTV affiliate.